Friday, 01 February 2013
I bought a lovely old tiger-oak desk the other day from a Craigslist ad. When I installed it in my study at home, Alicia pointed out that the finish was considerably darker than the shade we had in mind for our furniture. I sighed (silently), took it back apart (it consists of a thick top and two drawer cabinets), and dragged it out to the shop. A day or two later I bought paint stripper, thick rubber gloves, and green scrubbies at Home Depot.
Last night I spread a big plastic dropcloth, set a piece of the desk on it, and began slathering on the paint stripper with an old paintbrush. The instructions said to scrape after fifteen minutes. The product bubbled within three minutes, and at fifteen minutes was so dry that I had to slather more stripper on it to get it off at all. I worked my way around the piece three times, slathering and scraping. I got nearly all the varnish off that way, but there were streaks of stain that I couldn't scrape off. I ended up scouring the wood with a green scrubby dipped in stripper, my fourth time around.
At one point Alicia called me, and I had to take off a glove to answer. Then I was stuck with the dilemma of how to get a dirty inside-out glove back on with one hand. I worked left-handed for a while, then gave up. I went to the sink, washed my left glove, and then turned the right one right-side out, washed it, and put it back on.
(My shop has a sink! How cool is that?!)
The last step was to scrub the wood with a fresh scrubby dipped in paint thinner. I slopped the thinner on generously and scoured until there was no more residue of stripper or varnish scum.
The wood still looked a bit dark. I'll take another look at it tonight to see how it looks dry. If need be I'll give it a light sanding before I start refinishing.
Two more big pieces to go, plus drawers and several smaller pieces.
Sigh... If I had remembered how much hassle refinishing was, I would have held out for a light-colored desk.